Issues emerging around internet governance in Nepal (Commentary)

internetNarayan Prasad Ghimire / Kathmandu: A total of 3.6 billion people – nearly half the world population- use the internet now. As the internet has become a global facility for communication, commerce and innovation, it has been the hangout of the youth populace these days. Nepal, despite being the least developed country, has witnessed increasing internet penetration. As per the recent Management Information System (MIS) report of the Nepal Telecommunications Authority, the internet penetration has reached 54.34% in Nepal. However, question persists of quality- internet speed and access.

As is the global trend, most of the users of internet in Nepal are obviously the youths. The overwhelming presence of youths and teenagers in the social media as Facebook and twitter is its indication. Gone are the days of ‘a b c d’, daily life of digital natives is engaged with ‘a s d f’.

The vibrant youths coming up with critical views and comments on national issues through the social media is the ultimate example of the freedom of expression on easy and accessible media. It is because of the expansion of the internet. The State bodies and private sectors too have reaped huge benefit with this advanced communication facility by spreading their information and messages to a larger audience in a short time. These activities have tremendously contributed to the civic participation and engagement on multifarious issues of public importance, which is indeed a democracy practice with transparency in governance. However, the marvel of the modern science and technology- internet- is still a wonder for huge number of people. That is to say, the digital divide is growing. And the issues shadowed but alarmingly increasing are the cyber crimes everywhere disregarding the extent.

Talking about the freedom of expression online, it is noteworthy that hardly a week had passed since the government issued the Online Media Operation Directive by publishing it in the Nepal Gazette, a writ petition was filed at the Supreme Court, demanding the repeal of the Directive, arguing that it was against the freedom of expression principle and practice.

The Directive was received negatively by the stakeholders as media fraternity and FoE rights defenders. They too argued that in the name of registration and renewal of online media, the State could emerge tough and misuse the internet-media at any time which would be a gross violation of FoE. Such provision would not only intimidate online journalism but also block the internet-media from becoming professional and independent.

Similarly, there are efforts being made from civil society and individuals on various issues as open data, data journalism, and data for innovation. In a way or other these technical parts are related to internet. There is also Nepal Chapter of Internet Society where technologists, data scientists, lawyers and rights defenders are together to discuss various issues relating to internet.

Also worthy to mention here is that Minister for Health Gagan Thapa was said to have talked about the need of systematic data and data management for better policy planning and implementation.

And Section 47 of the Electronic Transaction Act has been a butt of attack by FoE rights defenders for long in Nepal.

The above mentioned issues seem scattered tidbit, contents from different sectors- technology, policy, information, data, private sector, government, State, human rights, crime, justice, development and innovation. Of course, these are the scattered issues which largely fall under the regime of internet governance. The emergence of such issues has now paved the way for all-side people to come together to discuss and debate on the internet governance.

What’s the internet governance actually? The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) defined the internet governance in early 2000’s- “Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector, and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of internet.”

Once we mull the above mentioned contents and this definition together, the internet governance is the umbrella sphere to incorporate all these ranging from policy to technology, crimes to justice and development to innovation, which are related to people’s internet behaviour.

Though late, civil society and youths have been attracted towards this regime. As the internet governance is the most complicated and comprehensive, equal participation and engagement of State, private sectors and civil society is important to discuss and debate on it at a time when the internet has become the global nervous system for communication, commerce and innovation.

To discuss this complicated topic, the first internet governance forum was held in Greece in 2006. Since then, this global internet platform is held every year while the recent one was held in Guadalajara city of Mexico in November 2016.

A single writing and debate is not enough to raise awareness on internet governance. Anyway, we can be hopeful that atmosphere is being created gradually for broad talk- a multi-stakeholders’ talk on internet governance in Nepal. RSS

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